My name is Syndy Sweeney. I am a writer, artist, and the creator and instructor of the workshop series, Who the Hell Am I…Honestly?® (www.whothehellamihonestly.com)
The people closest to me will find it unbelievable–almost a harbinger of the apocalypse–that I have set up a blog. It’s not that I’m opposed to technology or social networking, it’s just that years ago, before the internet made it so easy to discover someone’s whereabouts, I was stalked. I gave a man interested in a job my business card. Because he worked at the electric company, he used its computers to find out where I lived. He showed up at my house several times; once, forcing himself in my door. It was one of the scarier episodes of my life. Because of this, I have taken great pains not to reveal too much personal information on my website.
Perhaps, this is a problem. I have been writing a book (the last 8 years with large gaps of writer’s block) called Three Sides to A Circle: A Memoir which chronicles much of my life, including the 6 years I spent as a military wife. Writing this book has meant reliving parts of my life I would like to forget. But I faced them–felt them, as if they were fresh wounds. And in the weird wiring of the human brain, I wrote them down as an objective storyteller would. At every moment, once the pain or embarrassment subsided, I held myself accountable. I admitted when I overreacted, when I was a complete ass, when I was mean, when I was kicked down and when I was glorious. Because of the way I’ve gone about writing this memoir, it’s not something I’ve been able to easily sustain: how can I be who I am in the present and yet, be compelled to dip my whole body into the past? So, in one of my many writer’s blocks, I created a workshop series based on my own self-therapeutic journey. My website tells pretty much this story.
But maybe it doesn’t tell enough. I’ve also been afraid of revealing myself too much because when a person signs up for the workshop, I want it to be about her or him. I don’t want to be too much of an influence. I know what questions to ask, how to get to the meat of the matter, but I also don’t want a participant to feel as if his or her journey must echo my own. But maybe that’s what I need to do: reveal myself more, show that what I require of a participant is exactly what I require of myself. That requirement is Honesty. Sometimes ugly, sometimes depressing, sometimes beautiful and transcendent. And maybe if I don’t share more of my journey or how it continues to this day, my credibility as a teacher, a writer, a human, in the end will mean nothing.
So, who the hell am I honestly? Today, I’m okay. Not great, but okay. In the last five weeks, my cat was diagnosed with mouth cancer; my husband lost his job; a retreat in which I was supposed to teach was dissolved by the individual sponsoring it; the class I was scheduled to teach this month was canceled; and then, two days before the canceled retreat was supposed to happen, I discovered the sponsor was going ahead with it using a workshop, including the same format, concept, techniques and marketing materials, that was a derivative of my own. Basically, the last 5 weeks have challenged me and my family with one dramatic thing per week.
And yet, things around me–not for me, necessarily, but around me–are falling into place:
I found a product called ES Clear for cat cancer. It’s not meant as a cure but it helps the immune system. Three weeks ago, our cat didn’t eat and he threw up a lot. Now, his appetite has returned, he plays with his toys, defends himself against our kitten and the heartbreaking smell that surrounds a dying animal or human as its body decays is totally gone. So for how ever long I have him in my life, I have him–not some sickly, cut open and chemoed version. Blessings there.
My husband has also taken this job loss in stride. He is happier than he has been in years, excited about life and starting his own business. He is no longer the old codger he was in jeopardy of becoming at 33 years old but the crazy jokester who smiles with his whole body that I fell in love with. I am proud of him. Relieved. Grateful.
Cat? Okay. Husband? Golden.
And that leaves me. I am not depressed by any means. I wake up and write in my journal, dance to one of my Bollywood workouts or do Pilates or yoga. I eat really well (seriously, my mamma is Italian and Polish and I learned how to cook!). I read, watch one of the British mystery series I love so much or dream up new, gross and horrific ways to honor Halloween (I bleed orange and black, I think).
So, not depressed…but adrift. Wondering. Everything I have worked hard for is in limbo. I haven’t worked on my book in over a year. With my workshop series, I got the DBA, developed the website, registered the trademark and had three gigs lined up within a month. Two of those gigs fell through. But even before taking my workshop series to the next level, I tried to live creatively. I researched and put together a proposal to do the marketing for a local museum. The museum board was interested but did not want to take the risk. I wrote the newsletter, contracts and flyers for a local massage therapist. That was only a temporary thing but it taught me that I could be creative on someone else’s behalf. I’ve designed rooms for a haunted house, but the sketches stay in my binder. I just tried to get a job at a haunted house in their mask making department but haven’t heard back. And last year was the doozy for us: in May, my husband was laid off (yes, he’s a great worker, we’ve just lived in a few depressed areas in one of the most depressed States) and the house that I physically renovated (when the writer’s block hit, I repaired plaster walls or stripped doors or hung moldings) sold for less than a new car. We started again only to fast forward 16 months, finding ourselves rebuilding one more time.
No wonder I’m floating. Adrift. I have failed more often than not. And sometimes, I think that’s really cool. Because I’ve allowed myself to learn how to hang drywall; to draw the face of Louis Armstrong; to make masks or dolls; to write words that mean the world and words that are too clever by half; to belly dance and feel sexy even if I’m wearing my favorite pair of underwear with the rip in it while I’m doing so. To look at myself honestly and acknowledge that I have spent 5 weeks feeling a bit sorry for myself, a bit like a victim, a bit like a ball of anger that wants to punch my fist through the drywall and the only thing stopping me is knowing what a pain in the ass it would be to repair the hole. And yet, that’s what I’m doing, right now: repairing the hole.
Maybe the only way to fill that hole is to let others in. And today, that’s who the hell I am.
Thank you for reading my blog. Wishing you blessings, joy, hope and always, good health.
In gratitude and love, Syndy